Champion For Learning Bernardo Barnhart was recognized with a group of honorees February 10. Bernardo and his community efforts are well known in and out of Immokalee. (submitted photo)
Bernardo Barnhart has a heart for Immokalee. And he wears it on his sleeve, for all to see. He can be found at the core of so many things that make Immokalee what it is, but perhaps he reserves his biggest efforts for the kids. On the evening of February 10, he was recognized as a Champion For Learning. “I am completely humbled by this honor. I speak from experience when I say that every child needs role models in their life; someone to be a coach, advisor or mentor. The Champions for Learning program fosters and recognizes individuals who touch children’s lives and I am truly honored to be considered among the honorees. Moreover, I greatly appreciate the value given to our Immokalee children and to have had the opportunity to bring recognition to the work being done by many to impact Immokalee youth. It’s a great program and I unite with them to bring opportunity and empowerment to children in our community.” Being the child of migrant farm workers, Bernardo knew the importance of education and gaining a post-secondary degree. His passion for a degree was fueled further when, in his first semester of college, Bernardo was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Bernardo persevered through the chemotherapy and radiation, and earned a bachelor’s in business. After graduating, Bernardo embedded himself in the Immokalee community as an active volunteer, and works as the Vice President of First Bank. He is the President of the Immokalee Rotary Club, and the former president of the Immokalee Chamber of Commerce. He is a mentor in the Immokalee Foundation’s Take Stock in Children program, a member of the Immokalee High School Booster Club, has founded the Top 25 Readers Banquet, and established a scholarship for migrant students. “Bernardo’s enthusiasm for the students of Immokalee is infectious,” says Jamie Weisinger, Lipman Produce’s director of community relations. “As a product of the Immokalee schools, Bernardo takes it personally to show students that they can be successful too, regardless of where they come from.” February 10 at the Naples Grande Beach Resort the 2015-2016 Night of Champions honored who have contributed to the environment for student learning and who are impacting students’ lives. Along with Mr. Barnhart, other community leaders honored were: Kathy and Bill Avery, Sue and Art Bookbinder, Debra Faulk, Suzanne Evans, Jim Hoppensteadt, Mary Ingram, Maria Jimenez-Lara, Phil McCabe, Gary Personette, China Pierrelus and J. Richard “Dick” Munro. According to Susan McManus, President of Champions For Learning, these individuals were being honored for impacting the lives of students through mentoring, leadership, collaboration, and community involvement. “It is with great privilege that we honor this group of community leaders for their dedication to impacting students’ lives,” she said. “The Night of Champions honorees embody what it is to make a commitment to our students and their future.” This event supports the student programs of Champions For Learning, such as Take Stock In Children and the Real World Learning Model. Champions For Learning™ , the education foundation in Collier County is an independent, community-based, non-profit 501 (c) (3) organization that makes it possible for our community to impact lives by enriching the environment for student learning through educators and directly with students. The organization is the recipient of the 2014 Harvey Kapnick Award from the Community Foundation of Collier County. Become a Champion for Learning and visit www.ChampionsForLearning.org.